Teaching old dogs new tricks

Preparing cats and dogs for the arrival of a new baby

source: Beverley Cuddy
Guardian Weekend May 12 2001 p73

Dogs and cats can live harmoniously with new babies, so long as owners use common sense and supervise them properly. However, parents are often under pressure to give up their pets. The National Canine Defence League has discovered that concerns relating to children and babies account for 15% of cases of dogs being given up to their centres.

Dogs need to learn that there are new restrictions on where they can go in the house, and they should be taught this before the arrival of the baby. This means that the baby’s arrival is not linked to a loss of privileges. Carrying round soft toys can help get dogs used to babies being carried around. Owners should remove dog toys that appear similar to children’s toys. Mothers-to-be can also invite friends round with babies, to accustom dogs to the way babies smell and sound, and they can allow a dog to smell clothing from a hospital-born baby, prior to that baby coming home.

Cats can be taught about babies in similar ways, and need teaching that they should not go inside pushchairs and cots. Cats may show signs of stress when babies arrive, and may urinate in the house.

Owners need to reduce the time spent with both cats and dogs before babies arive, since otherwise jealousy is more likely to occur when owners have to spend time on their babies, and can’t spoil their pets as much. Neither dogs, nor cats should be left unsupervised with babies.